Mayor advocates for Sioux Lookout at busy AMO conference
Tim Brody - Editor
A busy Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference for Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance and Municipal CAO Michelle Larose.
Held virtually this year from August 17 to August 19, Lawrance and Larose were among the more than 1,500 municipal delegates who took part.
“Even though it was virtual we had six municipal delegations with six different ministers and I participated in another six delegations with the Kenora District Services Board, plus I participated as an AMO director and I sat on a board meeting and on a concurrent session on Municipal Indigenous relations,” Lawrance said.
The Mayor and CAO participated in delegations with the following Ministries: Ministry of Transportation, Solicitor General, Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services and the Ministry of Long-Term Care.
“We met with the Minister of Transportation. On each delegation you’re allowed a maximum of three topics and you’re not allowed to cover the same topic with another minister. With transportation we covered Inter-Community Bus, so this is the Ontario Northland Bus system that is now coming into Northwestern Ontario and how we can make it work for Sioux Lookout. We discussed, pushing to keep in front of the minister the Sturgeon River Road and Highway 72 crosswalk. She’s aware of it… and we discussed upgrades to the bypass and Highway 516 and brought to their attention some of the geometry concerns at the Alcona road bypass intersection,” Lawrance shared.
“With the Solicitor General it was about policing costs relief. With the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services we talked about a new emergency shelter and an extension of the women’s shelter. Mental Health and Addictions, we spoke about a detox and addictions treatment centre for Sioux Lookout. Long-Term Care, obviously that project (an additional 76 long-term care beds), we had an opportunity to meet with the Minister of Long-Term Care and the CAO had meet with the CEO of the hospital the week before, so we were up to date there, just trying to get them to push that over the edge and get the funding formula worked out. Municipal Affairs and Housing, we spoke to them about the underfunding of the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative for the Kenora District compared to other districts. I spoke to them about sustainable funding, assistance to municipalities during COVID,” Lawrance further explained.
Lawrance added, “The Kenora District Services Board delegations, some of those overlapped for sure and covered broader topics, but similar topics. It’s always good to get in and see the same minister twice in the same day.”
Lawrance also said he enjoyed the opportunity provided by the conference being online to meet with ministers one on one.
Last Wednesday, AMO signed a Declaration of Mutual Commitment and Friendship with the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC).
“AMO encouraged municipalities to sign a similar one at the municipal level with our local friendship centres, which we did,” Lawrance said, adding, “I think we are quite well recognized for the positive work we do, recognizing that there’s bumps along the way and it’s a long process, that started many, many years ago, decades ago, and carries on. We’re as far along that path as anyone I would say.”
Separate from AMO, Lawrance also last week appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance.
“We had spent quite a bit of time last week and this week preparing… it was about support for our tourist outfitters, our tourist industry in Sioux Lookout. One of the things that we pointed out to them is that the market for Sioux Lookout tourism is about 25 million Americans living in the north central US. The market from anywhere else, from Southern Ontario, they’re going to go to the Muskoka’s, somewhere in their north, which is a lot closer than here. Winnipeg is going to go north in Manitoba or to Kenora. So it’s very, very difficult no matter how much marketing you do, you have to be a magician to replace that market that has traditionally come here. This is what we tried to get across to the standing committee, that as hard as people work, this is a devastating blow with no real replacement, so there needs to be significant support for this industry and the American market is not going to come back, bang!.. This business is lost. It’s not like a candy shop that closes for COVID and three months later it opens and the people start coming back. The sales period is May, June, July heavily and the American border is still closed. So even as we open up, this year is lost to this industry and next year is very much in question. So there needs to be some support. People in these businesses are in dire straits and there’s no easy solution,” he said of his messaging to the Parliamentary Standing Committee.